SHUT UP! Jamie Lee Curtis Wins First Oscar at 64, Proves ‘Aging Gracefully,’ – Absolutely Magnificent
It’s no secret that Hollywood is tough on actresses – especially as they get older. Here’s how Jamie Lee Curtis has managed to age gracefully in an ageist industry and win her first Oscar at 64.
Jamie Lee Curtis proves that age is but a number by winning her very first Oscar for best supporting actress for the film Everything Everywhere All At Once. The Halloween survivor has over 45 years in the business. But while nominated for past Oscars, at the age of 64, this is the first time the star will be taking home an award.
When her name was announced, Curtis looked shocked, mouthing, “Shut up!” before accepting her well-deserved award.
Curtis speaks openly on the challenges of ‘aging gracefully’ in an industry that promotes youth. But hey, what does it matter when you can proudly claim roles and awards into your 60s when the usual cutoff age is 35? Curtis is a powerhouse who eschews Hollywood norms and forges her own path, be it acting, writing, or living her life as she sees fit.
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who disliked Jamie Lee Curtis. The actress-turned-inventor-turned-author-turned-actress-again has managed, through her kindness, creativity, and can-do attitude, to win over just about everybody.
This is especially impressive as the years have gone by. Hollywood is notoriously hard on actresses as they age – roles start to dry up, and the pressure to remain youthful-looking is crushing.
So how has smile-lined, gray-haired Jamie Lee Curtis managed to not only survive, but thrive in Hollywood after decades in the industry? Let’s take a look.
Jamie Lee Curtis’s Start as the Ultimate Scream Queen
Jamie Lee Curtis was born into a showbiz family. Her father was the popular actor Tony Curtis, though according to Curtis he wasn’t very involved in her upbringing. She was raised in Southern California by her mother, actress Janet Leigh, and her stepfather.
Though Curtis did enroll in college, she eventually dropped out to try and make it as an actress. Her breakout role was that of Laurie Strode in 1978’s Halloween, which turned out to be a very successful film franchise, and one in which Curtis would reprise her role many times over.
Curtis spent the next several years pigeonholed in the horror genre, often playing the part of the infamous final girl – a character that is often the sole survivor in a slasher film. Her films in the early 1980’s received mixed reviews by critics and audiences.
Curtis became so associated with horror movies that film critic Roger Ebert went so far as to say in his review of 1980’s Terror Train, “Curtis is to the current horror film glut what Christopher Lee was to the last one-or Boris Karloff was in the 1930s.” As such, Curtis earned the pop culture title of “Scream Queen.”
But Curtis had more to offer, as she would show directors and audiences later in the decade.
How Jamie Lee Curtis Became an Award-Winning Actress
By the mid-1980’s, Curtis was looking to expand her career beyond the horror genre. In 1984 she starred alongside Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy in Trading Places. She played a tough, no-nonsense prostitute who takes in Dan Aykroyd’s character for a price. The film was a far cry from her usual fare, and won her a British Academy Film Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.
She would be celebrated again later in the decade for her performance in 1989’s A Fish Called Wanda. Her starring performance would earn her nominations for a British Academy Film Award, a Golden Globe, and an American Comedy Award.
Other standout roles over the years include 1990’s Blue Steel, 1994’s True Lies, and 2003’s Freaky Friday, proving that this Scream Queen could hold her own across genres.
Jamie Lee Curtis’s Other Creative Pursuits
Not only can Curtis hold her own in the horror, action, and comedy genres, she’s also a successful writer. Curtis is the author of thirteen children’s books, starting with When I Was Little: A Four-Year Old’s Memoir of Her Youth in 1993. Her most recent book, Me, Myselfie & I: A Cautionary Tale, came out in 2018.
Curtis also wrote for the Huffington Post from 2011 to 2017. She created her first podcast, Letters from Camp, in 2020. Her second series, Good Friend with Jamie Lee Curtis, came out in 2021.
Curtis also held a patent for an invention. In 1987, she designed a diaper that could hold baby wipes, though she never allowed the invention to be marketed.
How Jamie Lee Curtis Stands Up for What She Believes In
Curtis has always been staunchly outspoken about the causes she believes in, using her wealth and social status to further good causes. One example of this is her continued support of the Jewish community.
Though not a practicing Jew herself, Curtis does have Jewish ancestry. Her father, Tony Curtis, was the son of Jewish Hungarian immigrants. Budapest, Hungary is home to the largest synagogue in Europe – The Great Synagogue, which unfortunately suffered some damage during World War II.
In the 1990’s, Curtis and her father helped finance repairs for The Great Synagogue, as well as for the synagogue in her family’s ancestral hometown of Mátészalka, where her ancestors worshipped.
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More recently, Curtis has been outspoken in her condemnation of Kanye West’s anti-Semitic remarks on Twitter.
Curtis is also in the business of helping and supporting women and children, both in Hollywood and beyond. She recently made headlines for her support of Everything Everywhere All At Once co-star Michelle Yeoh at the Golden Globes. In the photo from the night that’s gone viral, Curtis is cheering as though her team just won the superbowl.
Curtis also famously took a shining to co-star Lindsay Lohan during the filming of Freaky Friday, and has kept in touch with her in the intervening years. Both actresses have expressed their interest in making a sequel movie.
Curtis uses her fame to bring attention to the Children Affected by AIDS Foundation, and hosts their annual “Dream Halloween” event. She’s also involved with the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
How Jamie Lee Curtis Aged Gracefully in Hollywood
As mentioned above, the pressure placed on women in entertainment to retain their girlish good looks is immense. Plastic surgery is a very common response to that pressure.
And who can blame actresses for taking this route? While Hollywood has plenty of roles for aging actors – think of silver fox Richard Gere or action star Tom Cruise – there aren’t currently many roles for aging actresses. Plastic surgery has become increasingly normalized in the past couple of decades, and it’s unnervingly common to see actresses north of forty suddenly appear with smoother, stretched faces.
Curtis herself has succumbed to that same pressure, having tried Botox and liposuction in previous decades. She’s expressed regret for these procedures though, citing them as the cause of a Vicodin addiction. (She’s been sober for 23 years.)
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Since then, Curtis has opted for an au naturel approach to her looks. She’s embraced her gray hair and even appeared in photo shoots without makeup. That isn’t to say that she eschews glamour – she made recent headlines for her gorgeous Golden Globes outfit, and has sparked controversy by appearing in February’s issue of British Vogue in a cut-out Tom Ford dress.
But beyond her age positivity, Jamie Lee Curtis has retained a youthful joy for life. After receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Venice Film Festival in 2021, Curtis said she still felt like “this 14-year-old person just beginning their life. That’s how I wake up every day with that sort of joy and purpose.”
That joy and purpose comes across in her work, and it’s contagious. We can only hope that she’s paving the way for younger actresses to age gracefully throughout their careers too.